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Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

Dr Ben Murtagh

BA, MA, PhD (London)


Ben Murtagh
Department of South East Asia

Senior Lecturer in Indonesian and Malay

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Academic Staff, Centre of South East Asian Studies

Centre for Gender Studies


Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)


The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Project Board Member

Dr Ben Murtagh
Email address:
+44(0)20 7898 4248
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
Monday 12-1pm/Friday 10-11am (term 1)


I first travelled to Indonesia in 1990 and have been going back ever since. In the 1990s I backpacked across various parts of Indonesia from West Timor to Aceh. I also did quite a lot of cycle touring in Sumatra and Peninsula Malaysia. I still try to return to Aceh as often as possible, but my research interests mean that recently I have spent more time in Jakarta and Surabaya. While I have less spare time now, I still enjoy hiking and trying to get to new places around the archipelago whenever I have the chance.

I started at SOAS as an undergraduate in 1995. I did my BA in History and Indonesian and then continued at SOAS for my MA in Languages and Literatures of South East Asia. My MA dissertation (2000) was a study of the early 19th century poem Syair Perang Inggeris di Betawi, a poem about the British invasion of Java of 1811. I kept with this theme for my PhD (2004), which explored ‘Representations of the British in Traditional Malay Literature’.

More recently my research has focused on genders and sexualities in Indonesian cinema and literature, and my book, Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen was published by Routledge in 2013.

From 2014-2015 I was Co-Managing Editor of the journal Indonesia and the Malay World, one of the leading academic journals specialising on the arts and humanities of the region. I still serve on the Editorial Board of this journal. I am currently Book Reviews Editor for the journal South East Asia Research.

I was appointed Lecturer in Indonesian and Malay at SOAS in 2001, and currently teach courses on Indonesian Language, Literature and Cinema. As well as departmental courses I also contribute to courses taught across the school on History, Cinema and Comparative Literature. I am also the convenor of the Indonesian year abroad programme.

I welcome anyone interested in coming to SOAS to study any of these subjects, be it at BA, MA or PhD level, to get in touch to find out more.


Programmes Convened
Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Allan Simpson, Locating a Queer Theory in the Context of Contemporary South Korean Literature (with a focus on the novels of Kim Hyena)
  • Daniel Luther, Working title - Queering Normativity: Recovering the Small Voices of Sex in Literature and Film in India.
  • Joshua Black, Working title: Queer Identities in Modern Vietnamese Literature and New Media
  • Luqman Lee, Malay Culture and Minority Cultures: Performing Malay on Senario
Recent PhD Students Supervised:
  • Atit Pongpanit. 2011. The bitter–sweet portrayals of expressing and maintaining “non-normative genders and sexualities in Thai mainstream cinema from 1980 to 2010.
  • Muh. Arif Rokhman. 2013. Encountering the other in the works of the Indonesian literary association Forum Lingkar Pena
  • Alicia Izharuddin. 2014. Gender and Islam in Indonesian cinema.
  • Sangeeta Rani Mer Chand Bhardwaj. 2015. Sojourner turned settler: literary representations of the Malaysian/Singaporean Punjabi diaspora in the works of its writers in English.


  • Modern Indonesian cinema and literature
  • Queer​ ​studies and sexuality in Indonesia
  • Representation​ ​of genders and sexuality in Southeast Asian film​ and literatures
  • Traditional Malay literature


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email enterprise@soas.ac.uk.
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email comms@soas.ac.uk

Available for
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
  • Long Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • South East Asia
Country Expertise
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Malay-Indonesian
  • Portuguese


Authored Books

Murtagh, Ben (2013) Genders and sexualities in Indonesian cinema: constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen. London, UK: Routledge. (Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia)

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Murtagh, Ben and Jelani, Harun, eds. (2013) Esei penghargaan kepada Professor Emeritus V.I. Braginsky: mengharungi laut sastera Melayu. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

Braginsky, Vladimir and Murtagh, Ben, eds. (2007) The Portrayal of Foreigners in Indonesian and Malay Literatures: Essays on the Ethnic "Other". Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press.

Book Chapters

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Bangkok's beautiful men: images of Thai liberality in an Indonesian gay novel.' In: Jackson, Peter A., (ed.), Queer Bangkok: 21st century markets, media, and rights. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, pp. 163-180.

Murtagh, Ben (2007) 'Portrayals of British Individuals in Malay Literature.' In: Braginsky, V. and Murtagh, B., (eds.), The Portrayal of Foreigners in Indonesian and Malay Literatures Essays on the Ethnic "Other". The Edwin Mellen Press, pp. 107-164.

Murtagh, Ben (2005) 'The changing images of Britain in traditional Malay literature.' In: Z.Ajamain, and N.Ahmad, , (eds.), Kesusasteraan tradisional Asia Tenggara; prosiding Seminar Antarabangsa Asia Tenggara ke-3. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Malaysia), pp. 103-136.


Murtagh, Ben (2015) 'LGBT Indonesians bring entertainment and activism together online.' Inside Indonesia [Online] .

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Gay, lesbi and waria audiences in Indonesia: watching homosexuality on screen.' Indonesia and the Malay World, 39 (115). pp. 391-415.

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Coklat Stroberi: sebuah roman Indonesia dalam tiga rasa.' Jurnal Gandrung, 2 (1). pp. 45-72.

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Lesbi in the metropolis: fatal attraction in an Indonesian movie from the early 1990s.' Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 45 (1 & 2). pp. 95-132.

Murtagh, Ben (2010) 'Coklat Stroberi: an Indonesian romance in three flavours.' South East Asia Research, 18 (2). pp. 219-243.

Murtagh, Ben (2009) 'Indonesian Movie Gems.' the Jakarta Post, Weekender Magazine . pp. 30-31.

Murtagh, Ben (2008) 'Chocolate strawberry: an Indonesian film breaks new ground on the subject of teenage sexuality.' Inside Indonesia (93).

Murtagh, Ben (2007) 'Beautiful Men in Jakarta and Bangkok. The Pressure to Conform in a Recent Indonesian Novel.' South East Asia Research, 15 (2). pp. 281-99.

Murtagh, Ben (2006) 'Istana kecantikan: The First Indonesian Gay Movie.' South East Asia Research, 14 (2). pp. 211-30.

Murtagh, Ben (2004) 'Two poems commemorating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee of 1887.' Jurnal Filologi Melayu, 11 . pp. 31-43.

Murtagh, Ben (2002) 'Syair Perang Inggeris Di Betawi: A Malay Account of the British Invasion of Java of 1811.' Indonesia and the Malay World, 30 (86). pp. 27-36.

This list was generated on Mon Nov 30 00:31:23 2015 GMT.